Mercury exposure in songbird communities within Sphagnum bog and upland forest ecosystems in the Adirondack Park (New York, USA)

Amy K. Sauer, Charles T. Driscoll, David C. Evers, Evan M. Adams, Yang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Mercury (Hg) is a potent neurotoxin that biomagnifies within both aquatic and terrestrial food webs resulting in adverse physiological and reproductive effects on impacted wildlife populations, including songbird communities. Due to reducing conditions, wetland ecosystems promote the formation of methylmercury. Regional studies have documented elevated blood mercury concentrations in songbird species within these habitat types. The overall goal of this research was to examine spatial and seasonal patterns of Hg exposure for targeted songbird species within Sphagnum bog wetland systems and compare these patterns with adjacent upland forests in the Adirondack Park of New York State. Project sampling was conducted at study plots within four Sphagnum bog and associated upland forest sites from May - August during the 2008, 2009, and 2011 field seasons. The overall results documented: (1) blood Hg concentrations were elevated in songbird species inhabiting Sphagnum bog habitats as compared to nearby upland forest species; (2) target species within each habitat type exhibited consistent species-level patterns in blood Hg concentrations at each study site; and (3) no seasonal change in blood Hg concentrations within Sphagnum bog habitats was documented, but an increasing, followed by a decreasing seasonal pattern in mercury exposure was detected for upland forest species. Habitat type was demonstrated to influence avian Hg exposure levels. Moreover, Sphagnum bog ecosystems may be contributing to elevated Hg concentrations in biota within the surrounding environment. Seasonal patterns for blood Hg concentrations were found to vary between habitat type and are likely related to a combination of variables including habitat-driven Hg concentrations in prey items, seasonal dietary shifts, and annual molting cycles. This project emphasizes the importance of prioritizing future research efforts within identified high Hg habitat types, specifically wetland systems, to better characterize associated avian exposure levels, estimate the spatial extent of wetland systems on the surrounding environment, and identify locations of potential biological hotspots across the Adirondack Park.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1815-1829
Number of pages15
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Adirondack Park
  • Mercury
  • Songbird
  • Sphagnum bog
  • Upland forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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